Arena: Baltimore Arena (12,392).

Last season: 26-14 (first in division; lost to Harrisburg in first round of playoffs).

Coaches' prediction: Second.

Coach: Dave MacWilliams (first season).

Key players: G Cris Vaccaro; F Jean Harbor and Tarik Walker, M Jon Parry, Kevin Sloan and Barry Stitz; D Tim Wittman.

Strengths: Although the Spirit lost most of its scorers from last year, the replacements may be just as productive. The offense will be led by Parry, a 145-pounder acquired from Kansas City. The NPSL's No. 5 goal-scorer last season, Parry had eight goals in two exhibition victories over Harrisburg. Walker, NPSL Rookie of the Year, should be a force as a target man.

Weaknesses: The defense will be hurt by the loss of Doug Neely, named to the All-NPSL third team as a defender. Neely decided to play in his native California this season. But goaltending is improved with the addition of Joe Mallia as Vaccaro's backup.Outlook: Although nine of the 16 players are new, the Spirit figures to finish at or near the top of the division again. The team is not likely to bolt from the gate like it did last season, winning its first 10 games, because the new players are still adjusting to working as a unit. The team must remove the psychological block of being eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by Harrisburg the past two seasons. That will be largely up to MacWilliams, Kenny Cooper's successor.

Copyright © 2020, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad